Archives for posts with tag: spin

On the front page of the Times, David Barstow spins the murder of George Tiller into An Abortion Battle, Fought to the Death. A subhead reiterates the false dichotomy:

Protesters tried to close the abortion clinic of Dr. George R. Tiller; abortion rights advocates celebrated him.

In the daily-email version of the front page that I received, the subhead reads:

What thousands could not achieve in three decades of relentless protest, a gunman accomplished on May 31 when he shot Dr. George R. Tiller in the head.

I swear to God. That’s what they said. I just copied and pasted it. The first clause refers to anti-abortionism as a form of protest. Consider that fanaticism, repression, or even terrorism would have been more correct, and you get a glimpse of how misleading this piece is. The second clause turns a premeditated murder into an accomplishment, echoing the word achievement in the first clause.

In what the Times misleadingly calls a “battle, fought to the death” only one side was trying to kill people: the misleadingly named “pro-life” side. They wanter Tiller dead, and they got what they wanted. Tiller, on the other hand, was performing abortions. That’s not the same thing.

Remember that the anti-abortion “movement” wants to make abortion illegal. Not safer, or rarer, or more carefully considered. Illegal. They want to give the fetus more protections under the law than the mother has. After all, the fetus is an unborn person; the mother is just a woman.

[F]or more than 30 years the anti-abortion movement threw everything into driving Dr. Tiller out of business, certain that his defeat would deal a devastating blow to the “abortion industry” that has terminated roughly 50 million pregnancies since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

This misleading number comes straight from the anti-abortionists. The whole article is full of distortions like this.

His willingness to abort fetuses so late in pregnancies put him at the medical and moral outer limits of abortion. Yet he portrayed those arrayed against him as religious zealots engaged in a campaign whose aim was nothing less than to subjugate women.

But that is precisely what they are, and precisely what they aim for.

When an abortion provider in Florida was assassinated in 1994, Dr. Tiller spent the next few years under the protection of federal marshals. By 1997, he had been labeled “the most infamous abortionist in the United States” by James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

Barstow quotes Dobson’s epithet as if it’s a matter of public record. For the record: the word ‘infamous’ is a moral judgement, not a fact.

Several years ago it became clear to anti-abortion leaders that they needed a new strategy to shut down Dr. Tiller.

See the language? Instead of “it became clear to anti-abortion leaders that they needed a new strategy” he could have written, for example, “the radical clerics altered their strategy”.

“God has his own way,” Mr. Gietzen [chairman of the “Kansas Coalition for Life”] replied, “but you can’t say our prayers weren’t answered.”

They prayed that someone would kill George Tiller. And God heard them! Allahu Akbar!

Yet later, Mr. Gietzen said his feelings were more complex. [He would say that, wouldn’t he?] Many years ago, he explained, he had wrestled with the question of whether it would be moral to kill Dr. Tiller. [That is so kind of him!] Only after months of reading and praying, he said, did he conclude that violence could never be justified. [He kept praying for it, though.] Killing men like Dr. Tiller, he said, will only put off the day when abortion is outlawed altogether.

And then we’ll all have the benefit of a truly loving and gentle society. All of us, that is, except the women.

Here’s something the founder of all Protestantism wrote on this topic.

Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for. [Martin Luther, Works 20.84 (I haven’t been able to verify this quote. It’s all over the Web, but I couldn’t find the original.)]

No scripture can ever justify such an attitude. The fight over abortion comes down to this. Who do we want to write our laws — theocrats, or people who have a conscience?


Doubt polls. Doubt them very much. We’ll be seeing a lot of them in the next few months. They are mostly evil.

During Dubya’s reign, countless half-wits declared him to be more “likeable” than his opponents. To maximize the damage, organizations lacking a sense of shame ran polls on this topic.

A recent Zogby/Williams Identity Poll … found that 57% of undecided voters would rather have a beer with Bush than Kerry. (In Bush’s case, it would be a nonalcoholic beer.) … A new Pew Research Center Poll asked swing voters who comes off more as a “real person,” Bush or Kerry? Bush won, 56% to 38%.

Richard Benedetto, “Who’s more likeable, Bush or Kerry?”, USA Today, 9/17/2004

It might be true that most of those polled would have had a more pleasant chat with Bush than with Kerry. I don’t care, because this is obviously irrelevant to the question of who would have made a better president.

It’s even possible that Bush treats his immediate family and closest friends–even acquaintances, let’s say–with more kindness than does Kerry. I don’t know; but this, too, is irrelevant to the question of who would have made a better President.

Here’s a poll I would love to do.

“In your opinion, should the Zogby employee who proposed asking voters which presidential candidate they’d rather have a beer with, and the Pew staffer who decided to ask them which one comes off more as a ‘real person’, be shot?”

Wonderful sentiment expressed on New Scientist’s letters page (22 March 2008, page 20). (The web version is a little messed up; Herzenberg’s letter starts about halfway down the page.)

From Caroline Herzenberg

I must disagree with the sentiment expressed in the headline “Nothing but the truth” on Robert Matthews’s article. After a lifetime in science and of wholehearted commitment to protecting intellectual integrity, I have come to the conclusion that in the world outside science, cold facts alone are not enough.

Truth travels slowly, and falsehood moves fast. Additional techniques must be used by scientists in struggling against propaganda, and I recommend ridicule. Here in the US we are contending with huge amounts of propaganda from very powerful institutions, including corporations and our own government, as Dan Hind has already set out (19 January, p 46).

This propaganda generates and publicises falsehoods at a greater rate than any well-intentioned individual or limited group of individuals could possibly research and examine on the timescale of an effective counter-argument. Of course we must present the evidence and the facts, but this response will be too little and too late when the propaganda is being churned out by well-funded political or corporate noise machines working around the clock.

I suggest an immediate response of publicly ridiculing the most obvious lies and propaganda, followed promptly by a detailed response that is as thorough, thoughtful and accurate as possible.

Chicago, Illinois, US